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Analyzing the details of Alejandro Villanueva’s latest contract, and what it means for Stephon Tuitt

The Pittsburgh Steelers paid Alejandro Villanueva handsomely, and it is time to break down the numbers and what it means for the Steelers salary cap situation.

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Denver Broncos v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Alejandro Villanueva is one of those great stories we all like to read about. Villanueva played three different positions during his college career while playing for Army at West Point. He was already the tallest player in college football as a senior, but he was by far the heaviest WR, at 290 pounds, in 2009. The odd journey to the NFL did not end there for him. While serving three tours in Afghanistan with the Army Rangers, AV was decorated with the Bronze Star for valor.

Now the Pittsburgh Steelers have decorated him with a four year $24 million contract.

After almost a week, the financial details of Alejandro Villanueva’s new contract is out. There were no surprises in the Pittsburgh Steelers deal that locks him down through the 2020 season, according to Jeremy Fowler.

The deal includes a $6.5 million signing bonus to go along with base salaries of $1.5 million in 2017, $3 million in 2018, $5 million in 2019 and $5 million in 2020. Also, a $3 million roster bonus for 2018. Pittsburgh generally makes these roster bonuses guaranteed on the fifth day of the new league year, so early March 2018.

Uncertainty swirled in regards to what the Steelers would do with Big Al’s contract situation. Villanueva was due $615,000 for 2017 as an ERFA. He had no leverage over the team to get a pay raise. He either played for the league minimum, or he did not play football in 2017. This was a classy move on the Steelers part, rewarding their 26 game starter who did not allow a sack or quarterback hit from Week 14 through the conference championship.

Where does this put the Steelers regarding the 2017 salary cap? The NFLPA has the updated figure after AV’s contract at $13,815,763. While that number might have some of you grumbling about why the Steelers did not grab a high priced free agent. That number is misleading.

As the figure only accounts for the top 51 players on the roster, two more players need to be accounted for on the final roster of 53. (There is no rhyme or reason as to why only the rule of 51 applies and the other two players do not have to be accounted for in the offseason.) The two additional players will account for between $930,000 and $1.1 million. Cap space could grow if players currently in the top 51 are cut prior to the start of the season. The NFL minimum for two players is $930,000, while Eli Rogers and Tyler Matakevich are the 52nd and 53rd-highest-paid players on the 90-man roster.

The 10-man practice squad (PS) will be set prior to the start of the season and will account for more than $1.15 million. The actual figure will be higher, though, as some players will be paid more to ensure they remain with the Black and Gold. The minimum salary for a player on the PS is $7,200 per week for a total of $115,200 over the course of the 17-week season. PS players are also paid weekly for the playoffs, too, which could add another five weeks to their salaries. It would not be too surprising to see the Steelers have to pay out close to $2 million for the PS.

The Steelers also still have to account for $619,200 in offseason workouts. In reality, this figure will not be quite that high. Each player on the 90-man roster gets $215 a day for each of the 32 formal workout sessions. Pittsburgh will not carry 90 players every day, nor will every player take part during every session. The unused cash will be credited toward the salary cap before the start of the season and used as carryover money.

Pittsburgh has a history of carrying over $3 million to $4 million each season for use in the next season. The amount is also used as a buffer for injuries and even sometimes to retain PS players who may be poached.

This is a win-win situation for the Steelers and for AV. The move solidifies Ben Roethlisberger's blind side and gives Villanueva, the former Philadelphia Eagles castoff some job security and a nice payday. The deal locks up the only offensive lineman who was not signed through 2018.

With AV’s contract out of the way, will Stephon Tuitt be next? Or will someone else be next up?